The Crucifixion Re-Considered in Light of Aristotle’s Four Causes

Christians understand the Crucifixion of Christ primarily as a salvific act of self-offering on behalf of sinful mankind. As such, it’s easy to understand it primarily as a Sacrifice in which Christ is both Priest and Victim. But that interpretation isn’t comprehensive. Christ was condemned to death as an outlaw and revolutionary. But the charges were false, and Christ was innocent. When asked whether He was a king, Christ answered, “For this was I born and for this did I come into the world: to bear witness to the truth.”

So He was a victim of injustice on account of His message. The connection between salvific self-sacrifice with strong ritual overtones on the one hand and the judicial murder of a truth-teller on the other isn’t obvious. People often liken the death of Socrates to the death of Christ, but Christianity revolves around the Cross in a way post-Socratic philosophy would regard as perverse.

I will attempt to distinguish and correlate the different aspects of the Crucifixion. It’s an incomplete account, but it’s a start. I use the Aristotelian concepts of material, formal, efficient, and final causes: Continue reading

“Weep Not Over Me”: A Prophecy of the Fall of Jerusalem

27 And there followed Him a great multitude of people and of women, who bewailed and lamented Him.
28 But Jesus turning to them, said: Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over Me; but weep for yourselves and for your children.
29 For behold, the days shall come, wherein they will say: Blessed are the barren and the wombs that have not borne and the paps that have not given suck.
30 Then shall they begin to say to the mountains: Fall upon us. And to the hills: Cover us.
31 For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?

~St. Luke 23: 27-30

Apocalyptic. Prophetic. Christ says this during the feast of Passover, as He is being led out of Jerusalem to be crucified by Roman soldiers before the city walls. Just 37 years later, in the year 70, the Roman emperor Titus destroyed Jerusalem. The Jewish historian Josephus reports that the city had a huge number of pilgrims trapped in it because the Roman siege began at Passover. As the siege progressed, many of the inhabitants would try to break out of the city walls to find food. The Romans caught as many as 500 a day and crucified them in front of the city walls so the people inside could see them. Continue reading

(Good) Friday I’m in Love (My Apologies to The Cure)

In the 130s A.D., the Roman emperor Hadrian rebuilt Jerusalem as a pagan city named Aelia Capitolina. On the site of the Temple Mount, he built a temple to Jupiter Capitolinus, and on the site of Calvary and the Holy Sepulcher he built a temple to Venus, the goddess of love. What I find interesting is that Friday is the day of Venus. In most Romance languages, the word for Friday is literally “Venus’ day” (Venerdì, Viernes, Vendredi). The English “Friday” is from “Frige’s day” or “Freya’s Day,” Frige and Freya being Germanic equivalents of Venus. Continue reading

Was the Last Supper Celebrated Before the Passover Sacrifice?

The timelines of the Passion narrative are kind of confusing. On the one hand, the Last Supper certainly seems to be a Seder meal, which means the Passover lamb was slaughtered on Holy Thursday. On the other hand, there are indications that Christ died on the Cross on the same day and at the same time as the Passover lambs, which means the Last Supper was celebrated a day early.

Some have proposed that Christ and the Apostles observed a different calendar where the Passover fell a few days earlier than at the Temple, but then the Last Supper would not literally have been Christ’s “last supper.” Continue reading

Twelve Legions of Angels

From the Gospel reading on Palm Sunday:

“53 Thinkest thou that I cannot ask my Father, and He will give me presently more than twelve legions of angels?

54 How then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that so it must be done?”

–St. Matt. 26:53-54

Twelve legions must have seemed like an absurd number. At one point, the Roman Empire had a total of 36 legions, so 12 legions would have amounted to one-third of the entire Roman army. The historical irony is that that’s how many legions the Roman emperor Hadrian sent to Judea to crush the revolt of the false messiah Bar Kokhba in the 130s.

Lent and Easter as a Week of Weeks and Summary of Human History

St. Augustine compared human history to a week with seven (or eight) days/ages:

–Day/Age 1: Adam to Noah
–Day/Age 2: Noah to Abraham
–Day/Age 3: Abraham to David
–Day/Age 4: David to the Exile
–Day/Age 5: the Exile to the First Coming of Christ
–Day/Age 6: the First Coming of Christ to His Second Coming
–Day/Age 7: the Second Coming and General Resurrection, merging into the eighth day/age of eternity

So, the sixth age–the Friday of the week of human history–marks the First Coming and Passion of Christ. Continue reading

The Vanity of Protestant Biblical Archeology

It occurred to me how paltry Old Testament archeology is. Think of all of the artifacts, people, structures, cities, dynasties covered in the books of the Old Testament, and virtually no trace. Compared to Egypt, Mesopotamia, even Phoenicia, there’s meager physical and extra-Biblical documentary evidence for Israel’s existence.

Most notably, think of the Temple: not a stone upon a stone. The Ark of the Covenant, Urim and Thummim, and some other artifacts disappeared already with the Babylonian Captivity. The brazen serpent on a pole was destroyed by King Josias (Josiah) because it had become an object of idolatry. And now “evangelical” Protestants and some Jewish sects pore over ever square inch of the Holy Land trying to turn up artifacts–any artifact–of the Old Testament. How do we explain this absence? Continue reading

Stones in David’s Sling

I recently wrote about David’s battle with Goliath.* Recently, I listened to a CD where the speaker referenced David and the five stones he took with him into battle against Goliath. The speaker asked, “What are your stones?” He meant, “What are the practices you rely on in your battle for holiness?”

Inspired by this talk, I provide some possible interpretations of David’s sling and five stones:

1.) The sling is the Rosary. The fives stones are the five decades in each set of mysteries. Continue reading

David and Goliath, Christ and Satan: the Typology of Lent

Whatever the date on this post says, I’m writing this on the first Sunday of Lent. Here, I propose that David’s famous battle against Goliath is an Old Testament type of Our Lord’s temptation in the wilderness, as well as a type of Lent.

Here are my starting points:

1.) Today’s Gospel in the Traditional Latin Mass is St. Matthew 4:1-11, which narrates Our Lord’s temptation in the desert. After Christ fasts for 40 days, Satan tempts Him. Our Lord resists the temptations and triumphs over Satan. This passage is our New Testament Scriptural type for Lent. We fast for 40 days, at the end of which we celebrate Our Lord’s triumph over Satan in the mysteries of the Easter Triduum.

2.) David’s triumph over Goliath has traditionally been interpreted as a type of Our Lord’s triumph over Satan. Our Lord was a physical descendant of David and legal heir to his throne. David was anointed by Samuel to be King of Israel, and “Christ” means Anointed. Our Lord was born in Bethlehem, David’s birthplace, and was hailed on Palm Sunday as the Son of David. Etc. Continue reading

Yet More Drafts from the Driftless

Seems like I haven’t been able to get in any decent writing recently, not even on this, my summer vacation. Lest I forget, here are some jottings that I hope to develop into posts later:

–the meaning of perfidis in the traditional Good Friday Prayer for the Jews; how this term relates to 1.) a covenantal understanding of Christ’s Passion, 2.) the spiritual blindness mentioned in the same prayer, and 3.) our own identity as the Chosen People of the New Testament

–how to integrate our understanding of Christ’s Passion as both a martyrdom undertaken in defense of truth and as a propitiatory sacrifice; “the medium is the message”

–Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli as apostle of the Driftless Area; missions to the Indians, Frenchmen, Irish immigrants, and Anglo-American converts; temperance movement

–God’s “inscrutable will” (per Fr. Mazzuchelli), Pope Francis on the “God of Surprises,” and Fr. Feeney on divine surprises

–thoughts on the so-called debitum peccati, which is the speculative account of how exactly Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception relates to the Adam’s sin, if at all; the role of Christ’s Cross and the Immaculate Conception as the ultimate victory of the Cross; debitum Redemptoris or debitum Crucis as an alternative explanation; we inherit Original Sin for lack of the application of redemptive grace Continue reading